8 Picture Books to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2022


Today, February 1st, marks the start of Lunar New Year 2022! For those of you who may be asking “What is Lunar New Year?”, here’s a brief explanation: Lunar New Year refers to a celebration of the new year in many East and Southeast Asian countries. Lunar New Year is also called the Spring Festival, as it celebrates the oncoming season. Chinese New Year, Tết, or Tết Nguyên Đán, (Vietnamese New Year), and Seollal (Korean New Year) are all celebrated on this day. While this holiday includes different cultural traditions depending on the country, Lunar New Year is always a time to be with family and celebrate new beginnings. There is so much more to know about Lunar New Year, so I definitely encourage you to learn about this holiday!

To celebrate Lunar New Year, I have found 8 wonderful picture books about Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean New Year (plus a couple with an array of Asian representation!). These books share cultural celebrations, provide some educational information, and tell sweet stories about family and community. The books on this list are only a handful of picture books about Lunar New Year, and not every culture is represented. I hope to see more picture books and kid lit that highlight other Asian cultures and celebrations in the future. Until then, enjoy these beautiful stories, and I hope you have a happy Lunar New Year!

Chinese New Year
Friends are Friends, Forever written by Dane Liu & illustrated by Lynn Scurfield

From Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), 2022

Friends are Friends, Forever is Dane Liu’s debut picture book, and such a beautiful and heartwarming story. The book tells the story of Dandan, a young Chinese girl, who spends her last Lunar New Year with her best friend Yueyue before moving to America. Dandan and Yueyue celebrate together by making paper snowflake ornaments, the girls’ favorite New Year tradition. After Dandan and her family immigrate to America, celebrating New Years just doesn’t feel the same. That all changes when one friend shows an interest in Lunar New Year and Dandan has the opportunity to share her family’s traditions. One thing I love about Friends are Friends, Forever is that the story is not just about Lunar New Year, but also about immigration and sharing culture and heritage. The illustrations are truly incredible, with vibrant colors and textures that make the pictures have a whimsical and nostalgic quality. The book also has a sweet author’s note about the tradition of paper cutting, and instructions on how to make your own paper snowflake ornament (which I’ll definitely be trying)! 

Playing with Lanterns written by Wange Yage, illustrated by Zhu Chengliang & translated by Helen Wang

From Amazon Crossing Kids, 2022

Playing with Lanterns was originally published in China, and tells the story of a young Zhao Di as she celebrates the 15 days of New Year with her community. Zhao Di receives a lantern from her uncle and, after blustery winds blow out her candle and a run-in with a group of rowdy boys, Zhao Di finds the 15th day of the festival approaching all too soon. In a bittersweet and exciting conclusion to the festival, Zhao Di and her friends all smash their lanterns to prevent bad luck. The story ends with Zhao Di hopefully looking to the next year, when she’ll be able to celebrate with lanterns again. The book’s illustrations have such a warmth to them, despite being set in a snowy Chinese village, and I really enjoyed learning about Chinese folk traditions. There’s an author’s note that explains the history behind “Smashing Lanterns,” and that was something I never knew about before! I hope to read more books written by authors across the world, especially ones that share cultural traditions like Playing with Lanterns does.

Vietnamese New Year
Tết Together written by Alice Trinh & illustrated by Jade Le

Self-published, 2021

Tết Together, Alice Trinh’s debut book, was so much fun to read. The reader is invited to join a Vietnamese family as they explain the history and traditions of Tết. We are shown how the house is cleaned and decorated, what kinds of special foods are prepared for the celebration, and we see the kids get brand new Tết clothing. Once Tết begins, the festival is celebrated for 3 days. We join the kids as they go about their festivities, and the book ends on a unifying note about being grateful for good fortune and gathering together. Tết Together does a wonderful job of telling an engaging and heartwarming story, while also providing a lot of educational content to young readers. The book explains so much about Vietnamese New Year, and also includes words and phrases in Vietnamese (making this a bilingual book!). I also just adore the illustrations. Every page is bright and colorful, the characters are drawn with such animation, and the feeling of joy radiates from the pages.

Đúng là Tết (This is Tết) written by Bùi Phương Tâm & illustrated by Mai Ngo

From Tiny Wrist Bilingual Vietnamese Books, 2022 

Đúng là Tết, or This is Tết, tells the story of a young Vietnamese girl who goes to visit her grandparents during Tết. The reader, alongside our protagonist, visits the bustling markets, sees the country, and prepares for the festival with her family. This book is a bit different from the other books on this list. Đúng là Tết is written completely in Vietnamese and was published last year in Vietnam by Kim Dong Publishing House (where it has become a favorite kid’s book!). And 2022 marks the first year that Đúng là Tết will be sold in the U.S.! Tiny Wrist Bilingual Vietnamese Books is working on translating this book into English, and I will eagerly be waiting to read the story in its official translated publication. For readers who are fluent in Vietnamese, I definitely recommend checking this book out. For my fellow-non-Vietnamese speakers, keep an eye out for the official English translation from Tiny Wrist!

Korean New Year 
All Year for One Day written & illustrated by Tiffanie Lee

From City at Sea, 2020

All Year for One Day is another picture book inspired by an author’s experience. Tiffanie Lee wrote and published this book alongside friends and an online community that supported her dream of telling this story. All Year for One Day focuses on a Korean-American family as they celebrate Lunar New Year. We see the various preparations for New Years, from the food to the family. Similar to Tết Together, we also see the traditional Korean clothing, hanbok, worn for celebrations, and we learn how Korean families bow to their elders. All Year for One Day also has bilingual elements, with phrases such as “Saehae bok mani badeuseyo!”, a Korean greeting for New Years. I really enjoyed learning about the history behind this book, and so I had to give it a shoutout. I think it’s great to see Asian authors being able to share their stories, especially ones so personal and important to their culture. Plus, the illustrations are so cute with a really unique art style!

Super Korean New Years with Grandma written by Mary Chi-Whi Kim & illustrated by Eunjoo Feaster 

From TBR Books, 2021 

Super Korean New Years with Grandma is equal parts a celebration of grandmothers and a celebration of Seollal. This picture book tells the story of a family’s Grandma, who flies from South Korea to the U.S. for New Years. When Grandma arrives, she leads the family through many traditions to celebrate Korean New Year. These traditions include making special foods (which are named in the book), playing Korean games, and giving presents. The story is overall very simple, but the heart of it is so clear.  Lunar New Year is all about family, immediate and extended, so I enjoyed that this book focused on the intergenerational aspect of celebrating New Years. I also feel like the illustration perfectly matches the story. The hand-drawn, watercolor style of art looks like something a kid might create, but also something that a grandmother might doodle in her free time. The love between Grandma and the family is sweet and uplifting, and the exchange of Korean traditions makes for a great informative element in the story. 

More Asian Rep!
Our Lunar New Year written by Yobe Qiu & illustrated by Christina Nel Lopez, Jennifer Prevatt, and Pui Yu Chan

From Yobe Qiu Publishing, 2020

Our Lunar New Year tells 5 special stories about families celebrating New Years. In addition to Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean New Year, the book also highlights Thai New Year (Songkran) and Hindu New Year (Diwali). It’s important to note that Songkran is celebrated in April, and Diwali is celebrated in October. Still, I really liked that this book showed a range of cultural festivals and New Year traditions! Each story has its own family that the reader follows through their New Year. Readers see how the families prepare their homes, food, and themselves to celebrate their individual festivals. We learn the names of different food dishes, traditional clothing, and religious practices. I thought it was neat that this book has 3 illustrators, so each story stands out in its own way. Also, because we get 5 stories in one book, I found myself finding patterns within the ways New Years is celebrated across cultures– which is really neat!

Tastes of Lunar New Year written by Cheryl Yau Chepusova and Isabel Foo & illustrated by Mori Chiang

From Little Picnic Press, 2020

To wrap up this book list, I chose a picture book that centers around one of the most important things in any Asian celebration: Food! Tastes of Lunar New Year is a collection of 12 Lunar New Year dishes from East and Southeast Asian countries, with places like Malaysia, Taiwan, and Singapore represented. Each dish, presented by one of the 12 Zodiac animals, is accompanied by the name of the dish (in English and in the language of the dish’s origin), a simple one-line description, and the location of where the dish is from. The book also features a compiled list of the dishes at the end of the book. The compiled list also has short blurbs for each dish that talk about the food’s history and symbolism. In addition to great information about food, this book has the cutest illustrations! I love that the animals are colorful and simply drawn, but also so full of whimsy. The food is also drawn in such an appetizing way–I don’t know how to describe it, but I want to eat the illustrated food so badly! Reading this book seriously made my mouth water. For sure recommend this for any self-proclaimed foodie!

PRR Writer, Erika Brittain